A new 24/7 Wall Street report reveals that only four states are poorer than Kentucky.
Kentucky’s poverty rate of 19.4 percent in 2012 was much higher than the national rate, which is less than 16 percent; median income is under $42,000 a year – more than $9,000 below the national median.
Other key indicators of the commonwealth’s continual swim upstream in the River of Poverty include our jobless rate of 8.4 percent in August – more than a full point above the national rate – and the fact that only two other states hand out food stamps to a greater percentage of residents.
Some say more government programs and mandates will solve the poverty problem.
In a recent Bowling Green Daily News story, Cheryl Allen, CEO of Community Action of Southern Kentucky, told the newspaper that income disparity is “why we can’t improve the poverty statistics.”
Allen criticized a recent proposal in Washington to cut food stamps by 5 percent, claiming that it would force the poor to “decide whether to cover housing or be homeless, put gas in their car or quit a job, feed their family or steal to get that food.”
But is the solution for government to implement the very policies that would harm those Allen purports to help?
Food stamps, minimum-wage increases – which she also expressed support for – and other government-induced programs have repeatedly failed to create opportunities for prosperity that would actually close those income gaps Allen frets about.
There are better ways for Kentucky to address its challenges.
At a recent event previewing the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly co-sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute, State Budget Solutions (SBS) and George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, SBS president Bob Williams urged lawmakers to do what his home state of Washington did a decade ago: priority-based budgeting.
Williams said this approach moves away from focusing “almost entirely on inputs” – how much money do we need to sustain current programs and expenses – to the harder, but more effective work that requires lawmakers to determine core functions and allows their agreed-upon priorities to determine spending decisions.
The ripple effect of such an approach would result in Kentucky legislative leaders moving away from the horse trading that now goes on behind closed doors at the end of drawn-out, drama-filled legislative budget sessions, and instead would use taxpayer dollars more carefully. It also would provide a better way of determining which programs truly help the neediest among us.
It also would reduce the “stupid tax” forced upon taxpayers by politicians’ undisciplined spending decisions.
Williams offers this example: “Here we have a city, Detroit, in bankruptcy, and what did the legislature do – the conservative legislature and the conservative governor of Michigan? They’re funding – with public dollars – a new hockey rink in Detroit.”
Every legislator in Kentucky would benefit from Williams’s experience with “reality-based budgeting,” as he calls it. Such an approach helped his home state of Washington eliminate a $2.8 billion deficit without raising taxes in 2003. Find more about how that happened at www.statebudgetsolutions.org.
There are other ideas, as well.
As a Bowling Green city commissioner for two terms beginning in 2005, Western Kentucky University economics professor Brian Strow, Ph.D., led the effort to implement a zero-based budgeting process that helped the city weather the coming economic storm.
Strow endorsed Williams’s approach for state government and described his own approach as a commissioner this way: “We made all special interest groups testify before the commission to justify spending on their behalf. It revealed areas that really were low priority were getting funded over areas – like alley repaving – that really needed it. By moving money toward the city’s basic needs, we were in a better position to handle the economic recession.”
Whether you call it priority-based, reality-based or zero-based, processes that limit the size, scope and cost of government are healthy for taxpayers – both in terms of costs and services.
History also proves they are the better ideas for pulling Kentucky out of the River of Poverty and through economic storms.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.
A new 24/7 Wall Street report reveals that only four states are poorer than Kentucky.
The case of the ghostly neighbor
Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.
Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously
Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.
50 years makes a world of difference
I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.
Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter
This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.
Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer
Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.
Making plans for spring planting
My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place.
Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort
Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.
Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery
Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.
Funding education is critical for Kentucky and its communities
Kentucky’s latest budget outline makes it clear that our leaders in Frankfort plan to go to great lengths to find more money for education. For communities throughout the commonwealth, this effort to restore funds for our schools is very welcomed news.
Who benefits from ‛AT&T Bill’
Senate Bill 99, the “AT&T Bill,” is a great deal for the telecommunications giants AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell.
It would allow them to abandon their least profitable customers and service areas as well as public protection obligations. But it is a risky and potentially dangerous bet for Kentuckians. Kentucky House members should turn it down.
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